WASHINGTON — The Office of Thrift Supervision has suspended a top official following allegations he allowed IndyMac Bank to backdate an infusion of capital shortly before the California thrift was closed by federal regulators.
The agency said it has removed Darrel Dochow from his responsibilities as regional director of the West while the government investigates the matter.
The Treasury Department's Office of Inspector General said Mr. Dochow allowed IndyMac to count a May 9 infusion of capital from its holding company toward its first-quarter capital ratio.
According to the inspector general's office, OTS officials may have made similar allowances for other thrifts.
"During our inquiry, we also discovered that OTS had allowed other thrifts to record capital contributions in an earlier period than received," Eric M. Thorson, the Treasury's inspector general, wrote in a Dec. 22 letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. "While there is some support in authoritative accounting literature for recording capital contributions in one period that were received in a later period, that support is limited."
Sen. Grassley, who released Mr. Thorson's letter and another from OTS Director John Reich, said the findings cast doubt on thrifts' capital ratios.
"The Inspector General says this backdating of a capital infusion to meet bank capitalization requirements with the blessing of the Office of Thrift Supervision was not an isolated incident," the senator said in a press release. "What does that mean about the real financial condition of other banks? And what does it mean about the independence of the Office of Thrift Supervision?"
Sen. Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, also said: "If the Office of Thrift Supervision is turning a blind eye to capitalization requirements, Congress needs to know, so that it can understand the impact of the soundness of banks and bank holding companies."
The inspector general's office has been investigating the IndyMac failure as part of an automatic material loss review ordered when a collapse costs the government a significant amount of money. The IndyMac failure, which occurred July 11, is estimated to have cost the Deposit Insurance Fund $8.9 billion.
In his letter, dated Sunday, Mr. Reich acknowledged that the OTS has allowed the backdating, but he wrote that doing so had little impact on the thrift.
Backdating the capital infusion allowed the $30 billion-asset IndyMac to stay above a 10% capital ratio threshold — and avoid complying with brokered deposit restrictions, which are automatically triggered when an institution is no longer considered "well" capitalized. IndyMac Bank relied heavily on brokered deposits, which totaled $6.3 billion on May 11. (Without the added injection, it would have had a 9.98% ratio and would have been considered "adequately" capitalized.)
Though it would have had to apply to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for permission to continue its brokered deposit activity, Mr. Reich wrote that its brokered deposits were declining anyway at the time, dropping from $6.3 billion on May 11 to $5.2 billion on June 27.
"While we believe that the above information shows that the $18 million capital contribution issue is a relatively small factor in the events leading to the failure of IndyMac, we also recognize that we must take certain actions to ensure that OTS remains a well-managed regulatory agency," Mr. Reich wrote.
The inspector general's office said it would continue to assess the situation in a separate audit. Mr. Thorson also noted that it "is unclear what information OTS had at the time and what its basis was for allowing the capital infusion to be recorded for the quarter ending March 31."
Scott Polakoff, the OTS chief operating officer, sent a note to staff Monday acknowledging the change in staffing assignments but avoiding the reasons behind them.
The memo simply said he was "pleased to announce" Mr. Dochow "has agreed to perform a detail assignment in Washington, D.C.," including human resources, reporting directly to Mr. Polakoff beginning Jan. 5.
The e-mail also said the OTS was putting Edwin Chow, a deputy regional director, to fill in as acting regional director effective Monday.
The e-mail only vaguely alluded to its awkward rationale.
"We recognize that these types of changes can be disruptive and appreciate everyone's help in working with Darrel and Edwin as they manage their challenging work assignments," Mr. Polakoff said.